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Alumni Accomplishments

Shirley Abrahamson
Madison, Wisconsin
Current Position:
Chief Justice, Supreme Court of the State of Wisconsin

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Alumni Profiles

Trailblazing Chief Justice
Shirley Abrahamson, JD’56

Shirley Abrahamson is a legal pioneer. She attended Indiana Law in the 1950s, a time when law school was still a male domain. The New York City native graduated first in her class, was a member of Order of the Coif, and served as articles and book review editor of Indiana Law Journal. After working in private practice in Madison, Wisconsin, for 14 years and serving as a professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, she was appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1976 and named Chief Justice in 1996—the first woman to have served in either role.

She clearly loves her work. “My favorite part of being a justice is having the opportunity to work on important legal issues and help resolve them justly and fairly for the good of the litigants and the state. I’m proud to do the very best I can do on each matter.”

Best thing about Indiana Law: “Learning from great professors, alongside great fellow students. I also learned to prepare, prepare, prepare.”

She came for love: “I chose Indiana because I married an IU graduate student who was working on his PhD. It turned out to be a terrific idea—both IU and my marriage.”

The life of a chief justice: “One of the things I like about my job is that there are so many things going on that there really isn’t such a thing as a ‘typical’ day. On any given day I might hear oral arguments; sit in closed conference with my colleagues to decide cases and discuss opinions; work with my law clerk to draft opinions; travel to and attend meetings of various national or statewide organizations; or speak at events, meetings, or schools.  Recently I’ve undertaken a project to visit each of the 72 counties in Wisconsin to meet with local judges and other county officials, so I spend a good deal of time driving around the state.”

Advice for young lawyers? “Do what you enjoy. Do it well. Tithe to your community in the form of legal services.”